Kansas reporter files first federal lawsuit after newspaper raid

A stack of the latest weekly edition of the Marion County Record sits in the back of the...
A stack of the latest weekly edition of the Marion County Record sits in the back of the newspaper's building, awaiting unbundling, sorting and distribution, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, in Marion, Kan. The newspaper's front page was dedicated to two stories about a raid by local police on its offices and the publisher's home on Aug. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/John Hanna)(John Hanna | AP)
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A reporter for a Kansas newspaper at the center of a national fight files a federal lawsuit, claiming it was all in retaliation for an unrelated investigation.

Debbie Gruver, a reporter at the “Marion County Record,” filed the lawsuit against Marion, Kansas Police Department Chief Gideon Cody on Wednesday. The lawsuit claims Cody violated Gruver’s First Amendment and Fourth Amendment Rights.

In the lawsuit Gruver says Cody signed and executed an illegal search warrant on August 11.

It was an illegal search because it violated state and/or federal laws in place to protect journalists from search and seizure of journalistic materials. The lawsuit also claims there was not a sufficient link between the alleged crime and the three locations officers searched.

Gruver’s lawsuit claims Cody exceeded the scope of the warrant when he took her personal cell phone, despite the fact that the phone was not included in the search warrant. It goes on to say there is no evidence to suggest the phone was evidence of a crime or connected to a crime.

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Gruver previously told KCTV5 that Cody injured her finger when he grabbed the cell phone out of her hand.

After the raid, the lawsuit claims Gruver asked Cody to return her cell phone. She said she had nothing to do with the case they were investigating.

“I actually believe you,” Chief Cody replies with a grin, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the raid at the Marion County Record also violated Gruver’s Fourth Amendment Rights which protects against unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures,.

This is all key because, according to the lawsuit, the raid at the newspaper and two homes was in retaliation after Gruver conducted an investigation into Chief Cody, and the paper published an unrelated article about a Marion, Kan., restaurant owner.

According to the lawsuit, in mid-to-late April Gruver began investigating various allegations of misconduct against Cody while he worked with KCPD. The newspaper did not publish a story about the claims according to the lawsuit, but says Cody knew a Gruver was investigating him.

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The raids on the Marion County Record and the publisher’s home Aug. 11, after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about her. During the raid officers seized computers, phones and other equipment reportedly in connection with an identity theft investigation. A prosecutor said later that there was insufficient evidence to justify the raids, and some of the seized computers and cellphones have been returned.

The 98-year-old publisher of the newspaper died the day after the raid.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and also seeks more than $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Reached out to Chief Cody for comment on the lawsuit, but he has not responded.